Heterologous Expression of Lignocellulose-Modifying Enzymes in Microorganisms: Current Status

Mol Biotechnol. 2021 Mar;63(3):184-199. doi: 10.1007/s12033-020-00288-2. Epub 2021 Jan 23.


Heterologous expression of the carbohydrate-active enzymes in microorganisms is a promising approach to produce bio-based compounds, such as fuels, nutraceuticals and other value-added products from sustainable lignocellulosic sources. Several microorganisms, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Escherichia coli, and the filamentous fungi Aspergillus nidulans, have unique characteristics desirable for a biorefinery production approach like well-known genetic tools, thermotolerance, high fermentative capacity and product tolerance, and high amount of recombinant enzyme secretion. These microbial factories are already stablished in the heterologous production of the carbohydrate-active enzymes to produce, among others, ethanol, xylooligosaccharides and the valuable coniferol. A complete biocatalyst able to heterologous express the CAZymes of glycoside hydrolases, carbohydrate esterases and auxiliary activities families could release these compounds faster, with higher yield and specificity. Recent advances in the synthetic biology tools could expand the number and diversity of enzymes integrated in these microorganisms, and also modify those already integrated. This review outlines the heterologous expression of carbohydrate-active enzymes in microorganisms, as well as recent updates in synthetic biology.

Keywords: Bio-based products; CAZymes; CRISPR/Cas; Heterologous expression; Microbial hosts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Biological Products / metabolism
  • Esterases / genetics
  • Esterases / metabolism
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Fungi / growth & development*
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / genetics
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Lignin / metabolism*
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Synthetic Biology


  • Biological Products
  • lignocellulose
  • Lignin
  • Esterases
  • Glycoside Hydrolases